Having last seen Bill Oddie in Australia on the first leg of 'The Goodies – Still Alive On Stage' tour in March 2005 along with his fellow Goodies, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden, it was great to see him back "down under" again and this time performing solo in five shows around the country (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth) courtesy of tour promoter Justin Karcher and The K Factor.
A DVD of Bill's initial show in Brisbane has since been released and the bulk of my review is based on this performance, particularly as it was the longest of the five shows and contained a good deal of extra material. It also meant that I didn't need to make the effort to scrawl a heap of rough notes at the Melbourne show that I did get to see in person – I could just sit back and enjoy Bill in his element on stage – but I will cover my specific thoughts on the Melbourne show at the end of the review.
The set for the Brisbane show (and indeed the other venues as well) has a real silent movie feel about it – a bit dimly lit, minimal furnishings (two chairs, small table and a bottle of water) and an old-style black and white banner on the film screen in the background displaying "Bill Oddie 2013 Australian Tour". Shortly after the introductory Goodies songs, Bill's voice pipes up offstage and he apologises for running a little late, but he is too embarrassed to come up on stage. Bill continues: "It would be fun if we could start by singing the sig tune, but ... when you get to my stage of life, I can't remember it!" Bill then claims that he based the song on an ambulance siren or "a train going by" and starts to play the "goody goody yum yum" bars of it on a harmonica to a rousing cheer from the audience. Bill gleefully says "That's better! One more thing ... we had some words. Goolies? ... Goonies? ..." as the Goodies Theme starts playing on the film screen and happily exclaims "Goodies! Goody Goody … Yum Yum ... oh yes ... got it!" as he walks out on stage to a massive reception from the delighted audience.
Bill is casually dressed as if he is about to go bush for a day of birdwatching and he watches the theme sequence roll on the screen while he stretches and gets his bearings, then charmingly thanks the audience as he muses that "the mind starts to go ... I only just figured out who those other two blokes were!" in reference to his Goodies co-stars Tim and Graeme. Bill asks whether there are "people there who don't remember The Goodies" in the crowd before answering his own query with "No, you wouldn't have bothered to come, would you?!" and comments that "people have been lovely here" by coming up to him and telling him that they grew up with The Goodies. He then follows up with what is probably my favourite line of the evening: "Nobody grew up with The Goodies! Oh no, we stayed bloody childish! That was the whole point."
Bill worries that people in the audience mightn't recognise him because he has changed so much since the heydays of The Goodies; making comments as a mock audience member such as "Is that him? He's only small ... and all wrinkly. … He looks like something out of The Hobbit!" Bill accepts that there is a whole new generation coming up that don't know of The Goodies, so he has googled 'The Goodies' to see what information is available about the show for younger people. He comments that his search turned up results as varied as "a 5-piece all-girl band from Japan" ("That isn't us, is it?!"), septic tank suppliers, adult comics and Islamic wallpaper, but no mention of him, Tim and Graeme (conveniently overlooking that 'The Goodies Rule OK' fan club always shows up prominently in any such internet search!)
Bill notes that the first mention of The Goodies shows up on Wikipedia, where it is given the rather ambiguous endorsement of being a "childish comedy show, surprisingly popular in the 1970s and puzzlingly popular in Australia", and remarks "I don't know how to take that!" Bill then shows a compilation of Goodies highlights featuring his two co-stars, starting with Graeme, noting that "it would go on for hours" if he put everything in as "Graeme is a terrific mover, great mimes, wonderful with his hands ... and he's pretty wonderful with his legs too!" as the sequence starts with Graeme in drag as Olivia Newton Grayboots in 'Saturday Night Grease' and encompasses many of his other memorable moments from a variety of episodes including 'Earthanasia', 'The End', 'The Movies' and 'Almighty Cod'.
At the end Bill quips "You've only been here half an hour and you're getting repeats already!" and a montage of Tim's highlights from episodes like 'Scoutrageous' and 'Saturday Night Grease' provides plenty of fun and reminiscing for the appreciative audience. Afterwards Bill says that before travelling out to Australia, he asked Tim and Graeme to "make a little film to wish me good luck" on his overseas trip and the film starts to roll on the big screen. Bill is in a TV studio in London (with a nice view of the Thames and Westminster out the window in the background) and he calls Tim and Graeme into camera shot, desperately pleading with them to assist him. Tim and Graeme come into view, but are obviously very reluctant to be there, with them both looking at their watches (as Graeme grumbles "This is very inconvenient" and Tim wants to go and play golf instead) and when Bill tells them that he is going to Australia and begs "I wonder if you have a word for me?", the only word that they utter is a very blunt "Goodbye!", followed by an even blunter "No!" when Bill asks if they have a "word of encouragement" as well.
An upset Bill pleads "Grayboots! Timbo! I've had rather a hard time, you know. I've not really been terribly well and I've lost my job at the BBC." Rather than showing any sympathy, Graeme scornfully queries "What?! You had a job at the BBC?! What did they let you do?!" and Bill's mention of his twelve years of wildlife documentaries only elicits more yawns, glances at watches and sighs of "Boring!" from his so-called chums. His request for advice on travelling to Australia is met with a deadpan "Don't go!" from Tim, but Graeme softens his attitude a little and tells Bill "I'll tell you what you will like when you go out there, and that's the wildlife. There's tons of it. You go out for a walk and you'll come back with a pocketful of spiders!" Tim helpfully adds "A bagful of snakes!" as Graeme continues with "Swimming out among the jellyfish, you'll love it!" and Tim also encourages him to "Make friends with the stonefish" for good measure.
Bill explains that he will be showing "quite a bit of wildlife" as part of his Australian shows, but "of course there will be other things"; only for Tim to remark "Just as long as it's not The Goodies ... Contract!". Graeme adds "Not allowed to show that! It's in the contract." as a stunned Bill ponders "Can't show any ... It'll die the death! Oh no!" and starts blubbering, with his head bowed in horror. Tim rather smugly says to a smirking Graeme: "One thing I can say they're going to miss ... That's us!" and then looks straight at the camera with an enthusiastic "We're going to miss you too! We love you!" as Graeme chimes in with "God bless you, Australia. See you soon. Big hugs and kisses." Tim and Graeme walk off screen as a stricken Bill pleads for them to "Please come with me. Please?!", only to receive a distant reply of "Nooo!" before a cheeky Graeme beams back into shot one last time.
After a tremendous cheer from the audience at the end of this three minute clip of new Goodies footage, Bill crossly remarks that he has just the one word for Tim and Graeme as well - "Bastards!" – and then explains the outline of his show, which will take a Question and Answer format with some questions sent in and others asked directly by members of the audience. The various questions that have been sent in beforehand all come from interestingly-named "genuine Australians" such as Gary Gumtree, Wilbur Wombat and Basil Billabong (none from a Kerry Thwacker though unfortunately!) and the first one posed to Bill is regarding his very first public performance and what he did. Bill then tells of his primary school concert when he was just six years old and he had to sing the song 'Christopher Robin' along with his classmates to an audience of parents and teachers. Bill gives an encore of the performance all these years later by inviting a young lady up from the audience to sing a nice rendition of the song with him and the next question also deals with Bill's musical past by exploring his participation in a skiffle group at secondary school, with footage shown of him returning to his former school a few years ago and meeting up with his old bandmates for their first performance together in some 45 years. Bill admits afterwards that he went to "a pretty posh school" despite his pretence of being a working-class character in the Goodies ("though Tim went to an even posher one!") and he sings a few lines of his very patriotic school song, which has ten verses, including a rugby verse at the end that he dedicates to the victorious touring British Lions with the comment that "The glory is in the game ... as long as you win it!"
After having a dig at Australian sports fans for the "childish soppy names" of their football codes and teams (like "footy" and the "Socceroos"), Bill moves on to a question about whether any of his records had been banned by the BBC and in fact there were five such occasions over the years where this had happened. A solo pre-Goodies song about English footballer Nobby Stiles was the first one on the blacklist and three Goodies songs would follow later: 'Father Christmas Do Not Touch Me' ("about a pervy ... I'm sure Jimmy Savile would have recorded it ... or would have played it!") and the two "bodily functions" ditties 'Sick Man Blues' and 'Blowing Off'. Bill also had another early solo song called 'Nothing Better To Do' banned because it was about the feuding groups of mods and rockers on the seaside coast in the mid-1960s and the BBC was worried that one of the groups would "adopt the song as their anthem when they went into battle!" The only dissent that an audio clip from the song stirred up in the Brisbane audience was a loud request for Bill to play 'Cactus In My Y-Fronts' instead, to which a laughing Bill scoffs "No, you're not having that! That's too crude, no! Cactus In My Y-Fronts indeed! Who on earth would write a song like that?!"
Bill answers a question on whether he wanted to be a pop singer with the interesting observation that "in a way we all were", pointing to the fact that The Goodies had "four or five Top 20 records in the mid-seventies" and that in 1975 they were the eighth top group and he was the third most successful songwriter in Britain, to a big cheer from the audience. The fabulous Goodies cover version of 'Wild Thing' from 'The Goodies Rule OK' special is played in full on the screen and then Bill makes the ironic observation that "It was a show that was a big hit in the seventies and now we're all in the seventies!" age wise. Bill notes that it's something to look back on and be proud of, as scenes like Wild Thing were "very well shot" and with a great crew of extras, because they can "kill things" if they overact, like one of the ladies in the earlier Salvation Army clip from 'Scoutrageous'.
Bill reads out a question asking about the Goodies "relationship with the Royal Family" and that he seemed to "regard Royals as curious figures of fun", answering it with a laughing "Yes ... your point being ...?!" He says that there is some truth in that, but that "they were a lot funnier (back then) than they are now", particularly as they had "a wonderful habit of falling off horses" and injuring themselves and a clip is screened of the chase sequence from 'Royal Command' to emphasise the point. A follow-up question from Wendy Wallaby asks whether considering Bill's attitude towards the Royals, did he "have a nerve" to accept his OBE and Bill responds that by finding out more about the awards process, he realised that the recommendation for the OBE came from his peers (such as the head of the RSPB) for his work in conservation rather than directly from the palace and that he didn't want to insult his fellow birdwatchers and conservationists by turning down the award, though he claims that he "wouldn't have accepted it a week later because Blair invaded Iraq!" Bill's other reason for accepting his OBE was that his "kids wanted to go to the palace" and his idea of conformance to the "smart casual" dress code was to team a Hawaiian shirt with "the only suit I have ever bought" and no tie.
On the day that Bill attended the palace for his OBE presentation, he was seated with the "normal people" who had done great things in the community rather than the high-and-mighty dignitaries and the music being played by a military band was the score from 'South Pacific', so Bill stepped forward to receive his OBE from the Queen to the strains of 'There Is Nothing Like A Dame' (I wonder if the "real sailor" hit that last note OK!) The one rule that was in place was "Never turn your back on the Queen" and Bill unfortunately forgot this as he walked away and had to do a very quick pirouette, or "Fred Astaire turn" as he describes it. Bill notes that Tim and Graeme have recently also received OBEs and his straight-faced reaction to this state of affairs is "I sent mine back!", as the award is "totally meaningless if people like that are going to get them!" Bill is scornful that Tim and Graeme got their OBEs for "services to showbusiness" as "whatever services they performed, I was with them!" and so he feels that he should have been given "a second OBE" for this as well.
Bill observes that The Goodies was one of the few BBC programs to have a commercial break and plays a selection of the wonderful mock ads from the show, including Robinson's Paper, Goodies Plastic Spacemen and Twoey Chew Gum (though surprisingly none of the Heanz Meanz Beanz ads) before the show takes an actual 20 minute intermission break. When Bill re-emerges, he takes a number of questions that are asked directly by members of the audience; the first one on whether he is a 'Doctor Who' fan, which he playfully dismisses. Another question is about Tim's description of Bill in various episodes as a "grotty hairy frustrated little pop star", to which Bill replies that it's "only a half truth – I wasn't frustrated" and that Graeme had written that part of the script. Along the same lines, Bill is asked why Tim often had to "do uncomfortable things and wear dresses" and he chortles "Because Graeme and I wrote it!"
Bill is also asked about his early recording days and relates how he was asked to record some demo tracks in the mid-1960s and turned up at a recording studio with a zebra crossing outside – the famous Abbey Road – to be greeted by record producer George Martin of Beatles fame. The young sessional musicians included drummer Mitch Mitchell (later of Jimi Hendrix and the Experience), who Bill who showed how to play a particular type of drum beat (much to Bill's amazement, looking back on it all these years later) and Bill recorded a Joe Cocker-style rendition of traditional northern song 'On Ilkla Moor Baht At'. Rumour has it that the Beatles were in an adjacent room at the time and heard Bill singing, with John Lennon supposedly commenting "That's great. That John Cleese is really clever, isn't he?" Bill explodes at the very thought: "F***ing hell! John (Cleese)?! He's tone deaf!"
A question from a fan dressed as an Eckythump disciple (with flat cap, braces and black pudding) about the meaning of the Grand Master of Eckythump's wise saying has Bill remarking that "It means, of course, absolutely nothing", before slightly correcting himself that it means "There's nothing wrong with anything" and "There's nothing so wrong that you can't fix it by barleying the grummit!" A further fan question about the early episodes being "low tech" but improved later has Bill mock-chiding him with "Trevor, is this a question or just a gratuitous insult?!", before Bill explains that as it was well before the age of computer generated effects, many of the visual effects were achieved using the same means as the likes of Buster Keaton had used half a century beforehand. Warnings of "Mind the wires" frequently rang out during recording and after the scripts had been written, the Goodies would meet with all of the relevant BBC departments to get their feedback on how the shooting of each scene could be achieved, even down to having to "price the jokes" to stay within budget.
Regarding which episode was the "most physically challenging", Bill has little hesitation in nominating the 'London to Brighton' episode where the Goodies had to do a charity bounce around the world while sitting on spacehoppers ("a big round rubber ball with two strangely phallic little ears!") and dressed in toothpaste tube costumes. These costumes were like metal straightjackets with a metal skullcap insert that caused "absolute agony" every time that the Goodies bounced up and down on their spacehoppers, with "swearing the whole way round". Adding insult to injury was that when the Goodies watched the footage back later, they couldn't even see their own faces under the toothpaste tube costumes and they "could have got three extras to do it" instead. The other occasion where people suffered greatly (though at least it wasn't the Goodies themselves this time) was with the giant Dougal puppet in 'The Goodies Rule OK', which, as Bill explains while episode footage is running, was "like a slave ship inside" with twenty people lined up and strapped in and there was "a fight going on inside Dougal" with lots of swearing.
The rabbit costumes in 'Animals' also caused the Goodies some discomfort, but the most painful exercise of the entire series, according to Bill, was "riding the bloody trandem!" Footage of the maiden trandem ride from 'Beefeaters' is screened as Bill tells of how the Goodies had to write the falls into the script because they found that they just couldn't ride the bike at first, so they fulfilled the old showbiz saying "If you're going to fall off, do it funnily and do it with discipline". Bill quite liked the first incarnation of the trandem as he could just sit on the back and not have to pedal, but the three sets of pedals on the upgraded bike weren't always in sync and would often spin around and whack an unsuspecting Goody in the shins, so that there was blood everywhere. Bill curses "I never want to see the damn thing again!" but then he keeps on spotting a replica of it at each tour stop that has been specially created for selected lucky Goodies fans to ride on it.
Bill reminisces about the early days of heading to New York with the 'Cambridge Circus' performers (including Tim Brooke-Taylor and John Cleese) for a series of shows on Broadway and he notes that John Cleese was already a very funny mover and as proven by the likes of Laurel and Hardy, "good moving can be good for comedy". Bill then screens a clip of Donald O'Connor performing an energetic and infectious slapstick rendition of 'Make 'Em Laugh' from the 1952 classic 'Singing In The Rain' to prove his point and it was easy to see the unspoken parallel between this and Bill's own manic, self-torturing performance of 'I'm In Love For The Very First Time' in the 'Rock Goodies' episode and think that it must have provided Bill with quite a bit of inspiration at the time of writing the Goodies script. O'Connor's performance also drew comparisons with Graeme's wrestle with the obnoxious dodo in 'Dodonuts', so perhaps a second Goody found inspiration from this clip as well!
Walter Wattle notes that "the Goodies are famous for being completely ridiculous" and asks Bill if he has ever been embarrassed by anything that he did. Bill shows a clip of the Goodies singing 'Funky Gibbon' on 'Top Of The Pops' and wails "It's not the song, it's the dungarees!" in reference to the lairy outfits that the Goodies wore on that particular occasion. "Why did we wear them?! How did somebody design that and make us put them on?!" Bill claims that this clip is the reason why former Federal Minister Amanda Vanstone "made a little bit of a faux pas" and referred to the Goodies as "The Wiggles" (conveying this in a splendid Aussie accent for good measure). Bill is also asked why the Goodies agreed to appear on 'The Engelbert Humperdinck Show' in 1972 and he replies "I haven't a bloody clue!", especially as the show was made for German television and that the Goodies' voices were dubbed over in German prior to transmission (as evident in a linking passage screened from the series).
As a change from all of this wonderful reminiscing about The Goodies, Bill then changes tack to discuss his love of birdwatching and wildlife in general. Bill says that he doesn't mind at all being described as "the poor man's David Attenborough" as Attenborough's work is on a grand scale with wonderful photography showing things that viewers would otherwise never see, while Bill's work is more "down home" and shows people "things that they could see for themselves". "In terms of men's magazines, David Attenborough is the Playboy magazine, while mine is the Reader's Wives!", Bill says with a chuckle and he admits that he has "a hard act to follow" in Australia with the late Steve Irwin. Bill doesn't take the same sort of risks with his wildlife filming, but there are "still some moments of terror and agony" and he shows a compilation of various clips where he is nipped by a mantis and a crab, bitten by a spider and a vole and yelling in pain as a nest of ants swarm up his arms before sheepishly admitting "Actually it just kind of tickles!". There is also a clip of Bill being dropped into the sea for a close-up encounter with a colony of seals.
A question from Sydney Harbour-Bridge asks whether Bill has done wildlife documentaries for the past 15 years in order to atone for the cruel way that he treated various "poor innocent creatures" on The Goodies in the seventies. Bill mockingly says "Poor innocent creatures ... what, do you mean Tim?!" and starts off his reply by showing his own love for animals with a spectacular video clip of thousands of starlings coming in to roost along the River Severn in southern England. Bill watches agog from a hilltop in the late afternoon light as flocks of incoming starlings - an otherwise not particularly attractive or interesting bird - mass together in a huge sweeping cloud ("safety in numbers" to confuse any lurking sparrowhawks) and form the most stunning geometric shapes before they cascade from the sky like a giant waterfall into the reed beds below. At one particularly memorable point in the clip, Bill waves his arms in the air as though he is conducting a symphony and he comments that a lager company had even used the footage of the starlings in one of their ads ("they paid the BBC a fortune and me nothing!")
Bill then attempts to balance all of this niceness towards wildlife with some clips of himself and the other Goodies treating mock animals in less than tender fashion in episodes such as 'Black & White Beauty', 'Dodonuts', 'The End' and 'Animals'. Bill chuckles that thrashing the pantomime horse in 'Black & White Beauty' with Tim and Graeme inside it was "one of the most joyful jobs I've ever had!" and when an audience member dressed as a pantomime horse in the front row leans onto the stage, Bill pretends to whip him and laughingly says "You don't lose it!" Bill tells of how the Goodies received a complaint from a viewer about their mistreatment of animals after this episode and says "They're not real animals ... and if they were, they'd enjoy it!"
Moving away from the wildlife theme and back firmly into Goodies territory again, Bill is asked "Could you show us what we missed?" regarding the censorship of The Goodies by the ABC so that it could shown in an early timeslot. Bill comments that he could, but won't because "one of the things you missed was my bare bottom!" (from Series 1 episode 'Give Police A Chance') and most of the censorship of the Goodies in the UK was not because of "naughtiness", but more "because we were making a political point". This was most evident with the 'South Africa' episode which was made in the middle of the apartheid era and the Goodies wanted to make their point about the vileness of it via comedy. Bill recalls that the Goodies were quite pleased with the initial version of the episode, but were called into the BBC office and told by management that "we feel you are being a little bit harsh on the South African police". An incredulous Bill says that it was just "not possible" and "ridiculous" given the brutal behaviour of the police towards black South Africans in the 1970s and he wonders if the BBC might have had shares in South Africa's goldmines at the time. The BBC also claimed that the show "just isn't as funny as usual", so Bill and Graeme rewrote it to include lots more jokes and Bill is very proud of the end result, especially as it was noticed and acknowledged by many of the TV critics of that era. A clip is screened from the early part of the episode, including the famous "South African Tourist Board. Through Door and Turn White" sign.
Bill is asked whether he has a favourite Goodies episode or scenes and he says that he does; though "not the iconic ones" featuring memorable Goodies concepts like the giant kitten, Eckythump or the giant Dougal. Bill initially screens a decent-sized clip from 'Scoutrageous' that features Tim as Brown Owl and Graeme and Bill as the "new bods" of his scout troop, with lots of cold showers for all present to cure an assortment of naughty thoughts. Bill's second choice of footage comes after he laments that the Goodies were so intent on playfully treating themselves as human cartoon figures that they "never got a chance to really act", so he reckons that studio-bound episodes (made at the end of the series when the budget was running low) was as close as they got to acting and plays the clip from 'Earthanasia' where Graeme is treating Tim for his belly button inhibitions, only for Bill to make them even worse by dragging up as Tim's Mum, complete with bushy beard.
The final question of Bill is "Please will you sing the Funky Gibbon?" and he requests the audience to provide the backing gibbon noises; though the trial run is "very man-centred" and the following females-only effort is canned as "a bit passionless", as Bill is "trying to live my fantasies here!" An audio version of 'Funky Gibbon' from the 1970s pipes through the speakers and Bill happily sings along to it while also doing a bit of conducting of the audience; then he thanks everyone and exits the stage to a tremendous ovation from the delighted crowd in attendance while the closing chase scene from 'The Movies' plays on the screen.
The additional features of the DVD are:
Credits and thank-yous from the tour promoters, The K Factor, to the tune of 'Nappy Love'.
A thank-you clip from Bill filmed at the end of the tour for "the most enjoyable couple of weeks" as on past tours to Australia he has always had Tim and Graeme to support him, but this was more like one of his wildlife shows where he was working on his own and he really enjoyed it. Bill says that he is "overwhelmed by the sheer friendliness and gratitude of people" at the shows and in the street and that he particularly appreciates hearing people say "thank you – now there's a word that you don't hear very often". Bill thanks Justin and the team at The K Factor – "nice one, Justin!" – for the great organisation "so that everything worked" (apart from a few hiccups in Melbourne, where he says with tongue-in-cheek that "we were trying to recapture the old days of theatre") and that "I've never been so well looked after in my life". Bill finishes by saying that if anyone else wants to do a tour like the one that he has just done, then "they shouldn't, because that's my job!"
Still photos from Bill's appearance on 'The Adam Hills Show' and of Bill and of various costumed fans at each of the five Australian tour venues to the tune of 'Black Pudding Bertha'.
I attended the Melbourne performance of 'Bill Oddie - An Oldie But A Goodie' which was held at the historic and iconic Astor Theatre in St. Kilda on Saturday 22nd June at 3pm. With the bumper crowd standing out in the street seeing as the theatre didn't allow anyone inside until shortly before starting time, it was possible to scan along the lines and check out the various Goodies-inspired costumes that people were wearing. While there were plenty of Goodies t-shirts on show (including mine) despite it being mid-winter, there didn't appear to be a large number of people in actual costumes, though I did spot a group of four resplendent in string vests and one bloke had come dressed as a Goodies Post box, which looked fabulous.
The Melbourne show was considerably shorter than all of the other four of Bill's performances because there was a screening of the classic movie 'Lawrence of Arabia' scheduled for 7pm and we all had to be out of the theatre by the time it started. I was initially rather annoyed that Melbourne (with the biggest crowd of the five venues) was being short-changed by being given the shortest of Bill's shows, but having watched the DVD of the Brisbane performance (the longest of the shows) it appears that the time was mostly saved by cutting out a number of the video clips and the actual face-to-face time with Bill himself was quite comparable. If anything, the content of Melbourne show was probably better structured because it was the third of Bill's shows and he was really getting into the groove, while the initial show in Brisbane was a little rambling at times.
Much of the actual content of the show has already been described above from the DVD of the Brisbane performance and while there were a few new anecdotes and obviously different questions asked by the audience members, the overall structure of the show was pretty similar. Bill himself was casually dressed, relaxed, friendly, charming and very much enjoying the opportunity to relive many happy moments of his long career in comedy, wildlife and entertainment in general with an appreciative audience who remember much of it with great fondness from their own childhood days. Bill's relaxed attitude also extended offstage as he was happy to chat with fans afterwards, sign autographs and pose for photos, which was greatly appreciated by all those present after the show. A big thank-you on behalf of all Goodies fans who attended the shows is also appropriate at this stage to Justin Karcher and the other staff at The K Factor who not only brought Bill out to Australia for the tour, but also ensured that fans attending the shows were looked after royally with great opportunities to catch up with Bill after each show and for a lucky few competition winners, the chance to ride on the replica trandem or ask Bill their questions directly at the shows. Thanks heaps, Justin!
While the content of Bill's show and its organisation receives a well-deserved "Superstar" rating of 5 black puddings, unfortunately the technical and venue side of things in Melbourne dipped right down into "Tripe on t' pikelets" territory on the Black Pudding Ratings Scale. The biggest bugbear was the ongoing problem with Bill's radio microphone which kept on emitting horrible blasts of noisy static interference at random intervals (despite many attempts behind the scenes to fix the problem) and although Bill showed the patience of a saint in dealing with it – and even cracking an occasional joke about it – this awful assault on everyone's eardrums was very distracting and annoying. Sadly the video system wasn't much better at times, with images on the big screen freezing up periodically or refusing to change over, culminating in the Brown Owl clip from 'Scoutrageous' suddenly being cut off midstream and changing into a video clip of the 'Funky Gibbon' which we were presumably meant to be given the opportunity to sing along to, had all been going smoothly.
The dull lighting of the stage area of the theatre was also an issue with Bill's facial expressions not always clear from my seat in the fourth row, so I'm not sure that people sitting at the back or in the balcony would have been able to see much of his face at all. The equally gloomy lighting of the rest of the venue also had a bad effect on the paid professional photos that were taken of fans sitting alongside Bill in the upstairs hall, as these sadly looked more like they were taken in a coal mine than in a picture theatre. Finally there was the other issue already alluded to earlier – the need for all Goodies fans to be completely out of the theatre in time for the screening of 'Lawrence of Arabia' at 7pm – and while it didn't necessarily deprive us of many of Bill's anecdotes and stories (in fact he even joked that it was the first time that he had been the "warm-up act for Lawrence of Arabia"), it would have been nice if Melbourne attendees could have seen the full-length show with all of the video clips, singalongs etc that the other four venues got to enjoy.
However the biggest impact of the impending curfew came after the show when the huge queue of fans had formed in the upper hall (well away from the main theatre where the film screening was to take place) for their paid photographs and autographs and brief chats with Bill and the clock was rapidly ticking down to 7pm with heaps of people still to have their treasured moment with the great man. To Justin and Bill's enormous credit, they ensured that every single fan got to meet with Bill to have their items signed, photos taken and a short friendly chat, but there was an unspoken pressure not to dilly-dally and move on quickly so that nobody else missed out after 7pm which was another unfortunate situation that the other venues didn't have to contend with.
One of the GROK forum comments made afterwards by a fellow Melbourne attendee was a Jolly Rock Lighthouse-influenced: "Don't go to the Astor, whatever you do. I wouldn't go near it if I were you" and regrettably I'd have to agree from a Goodies fan's perspective. It is no doubt a brilliant theatre with heaps of atmosphere when watching classic movies like 'Lawrence of Arabia', but it just wasn't the right venue for a live stage show like the one that Bill put on for us and hopefully the next time that he (or all three Goodies with a bit of luck!) comes to town we'll get to see him with far better sound, visual and lighting quality and with much more time for the full show and to meet up with his adoring fans afterwards. A Goody Goody Yum Yum prospect for sure!
Bill introduces his show
"This is very inconvenient"
Not allowed to show The Goodies - "Contract!"
"It'll die the death! Oh no!"
"We love you, Australia!"
Graeme is not far off screen after all
Bill sings 'Christopher Robin' with a little help from an audience member
Bill is reunited with his skiffle band at school
Bill is asked a question from the audience
A familiar scene from 'Make em Laugh'
The Goodies with Engelbert Humperdinck
Bill's arms are covered with ants
A vole gets a bit vicious in Bill's grasp
Bill swimming with the seals
Bill conducts a starling symphony
The starlings amass in their thousands
The starlings cascade to the reed beds below
Bill helps the crowd to sing the Funky Gibbon
Farewell at the end of the show
Thank-you from Bill at the end of the tour
The fabulous cartoon from the Adam Hills Show
Bill with Adam Hills and fellow guests
Bill with the trandem riders in Perth and Melbourne
Goodies fans in costume at the shows
With Bill and my sister Kristen at the Melbourne show
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